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A VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide with Keyboard Shortcuts & Gestures

Find out all the VoiceOver keyboard shortcuts & hand gestures you'll need for your testing by reading our VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide.

A VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide with Keyboard Shortcuts & Gestures - Blog
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Apple is one of the biggest technology companies in the world with over 1.8 billion active devices as of 2022. VoiceOver is an in-built screen reader that was first introduced by Apple in 2009. It is now available on all their devices like Macs, iPhones, iPads, and so on. So as an accessibility tester, knowing to use VoiceOver for testing is mandatory. Being a leading web accessibility testing services provider, we have written this VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide that will help you in using VoiceOver for your accessibility testing. So we will be covering the various VoiceOver shortcut keys you’ll need to know when it comes to Macs and the various VoiceOver gestures when it comes to iPhones & iPads.

How to Get VoiceOver Started?

So let’s start this VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide by seeing how to start VoiceOver across all the devices. On a Mac, you can start VoiceOver by either using the shortcut keys (Command + F5) or by Settings -> General Section -> Accessibility Menu -> VoiceOver.

If you are using an iPad or iPhone that is supported by Siri, then you could also boot it up using Siri. You can also triple press the side button or the home button to start VoiceOver, or turn it on by Settings -> Accessibility -> VoiceOver.

Rotor

One unique feature in VoiceOver is the rotor, which can be described as a wheel of commands that is dependent on the context. So the user can choose what settings or navigation options that have to appear in the rotor. The rotor is highly customizable as the user can assign different navigation options such as headings, window spots, links, and so on as shown.

Rotor Functionality Menu in VoiceOver

You can define the settings you want to display in the rotor by navigating to Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Voiceover -> Utility -> Web -> Web Rotor.

When it comes to devices such as iPads and iPhones, you can also turn Rotor on by swiping two fingers on the touchscreen like how you would dial with a rotating dial pad. And you will get a similar functionality where you can define the navigation options you need and use them by performing the appropriate gestures.

Accessibility Testing Using VoiceOver

Screen readers are accessibility testing tools that are primarily assistive technologies used by people with disabilities to access the content. So knowing the basic VoiceOver keyboard shortcuts to operate it is a must. In addition to that, there are a few checkpoints that every accessibility tester should validate to ensure that the content is accessible. So in this VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide, we have categorized the VoiceOver keyboard shortcuts with reference to those checkpoints.

  • Content Navigation
  • Reading Content
  • Interactive Element Navigation
  • Table Navigation

VoiceOver Keyboard Shortcuts for macOS:

iMacs and Macbooks are the Apple devices where VoiceOver can be controlled using various keyboard shortcuts. Since devices like iPads and iPhones have a touch screen for the input, they will be using touch gestures to control VoiceOver. We will be covering those gestures later on the blog once we have seen the keyboard shortcuts.

Functional :

ActionCommand
Start or Stop VoiceOverCommand + F5
VoiceOver Activation keys (or VO keys)Control + Option (referenced as VO)
Lock (or unlock) VO keysControl + Option + ;
Open Rotor Control + Option + U
Choose speech setting options such as speaking rate, voice, pitch, etc.Control + Option + Command + Right Arrow / Left Arrow
Modify the chosen speech settingControl + Option + Command + Up Arrow / Down Arrow
Toggle screen curtain on/offControl + Option+ shift +F11

 

Content Navigation

ActionCommand
Go to the top of the page (iMacs)Control + Option + Home
Go to the top of the page (Macbooks)Control + Option + Fn + Left Arrow
Navigate to the bottom of the page (iMacs)Control + Option+ End
Navigate to the bottom of the page (Macbooks)Control + Option + Fn + Right Arrow
Go to the next headingControl + Option + Command + H
Go to the next tableControl + Option + Command + T
Go to the first item on pageControl + Option + A
Scroll (vertically or horizontally)Shift key + scroll
Go to previous (heading, table, etc.)Control + Option + Shift + Command + (H, T, etc.)

 

Reading Content:

ActionCommand
Start readingControl + Option+ A
Stop readingControl
Start reading continuously from this point onControl + Option + Down Arrow
Read the entire pageControl + Option + Up Arrow / Down Arrow
Read the next line, word, characterControl + Option + Right Arrow
Read the previous line, word, characterControl + Option + Left Arrow
Repeat the last spoken phraseControl + Option + Z
Read the selected paragraphControl + Option + P
Read the selected sentenceControl + Option + S
Read the selected wordControl + Option + W

 

Interactive Elements Navigation:

If you are unsure of what interactive elements are, they are what the name suggests. They are web elements that a user can interact with or elements that respond to inputs from the user.

ActionCommand
Go to the next/previous focusable item (link, button, input, etc.)Tab / Shift + Tab
Next linkControl + Option + Command + L
Next visited linkControl + Option + Command + V
Next form elementControl + Option+ Command + J
Next listControl + Option + Command + X
Next graphicControl + Option+ Command + G
Activate a link or form controlControl + Option Enter (or) Space Bar
Interact with (go into/out of) objects (like iframes, menus, application regions, etc.)Control + Option + Shift + Down Arrow / Up Arrow

 

Table Navigation:
ActionCommand
Next tableControl + Option + Command + T
Read column headerControl + Option + C
Read row from VO cursor location to end of rowControl + Option + R
Read column from VO cursor location to the bottom of columnControl + Option + R + C
Move up or down in a columnUp Arrow or Down Arrow
Move to the left or right in a rowLeft Arrow or Right Arrow

iOS VoiceOver gestures

Apart from the way VoiceOver is controlled on these touch-enabled devices, it does provide a very uniform experience across the Apple ecosystem. So let’s take a look at the various gestures in the same categorized view as before.

  • Functional
  • Content Navigation
  • Reading Content
  • Interactive Element Navigation
  • Text Editing
  • Table Navigation

Apart from the gestures that you will be seeing in this VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide, you will also have the option to enable typing feedback for VoiceOver to read out the words or characters that have been typed by Settings -> General -> VoiceOver -> Typing Feedback. Since VoiceOver changes the way gestures work on an iPad or iPhone, make sure to disable them in the Settings.

Functional:

ActionCommand
Start or Stop VoiceOver (When it is enabled)Triple-press home button or side button (iPhone X +)
Gesture help4-finger double-tap
Split tap quick-activationSelect and hold with one finger, tap with another
Double-press buttonTriple-tap
Next/previous app4-finger swipe right/left
Drag modeTap twice and hold
Toggle screen curtain on/offThree-finger triple-tap
Item Chooser:Two-finger triple-tap
Choose speech setting options such as speaking rate, voice, pitch, etc.VO + Command + Right/Left Arrow key
Modify the chosen speech settingVO + Command+ Up/Down Arrow Key

 

Content Navigation

ActionGesture
Go to the top of the page Two-finger swipe up
Navigate to the bottom of the pageTwo-finger double-tap one-finger tap
Go to the next headingSet Headings on Rotor and swipe down
Go to the next tableRotor, swipe down
Go to previous (heading, table, etc.)Swipe up
Go back, close a popup, or cancel the last one.Two-finger scrub
Go to the first item on the page4-finger tap on the upper/lower half of the screen
Scroll (vertically or horizontally)3-finger swipe up, down, left, or right
Go back to one link, list, table, landmark, heading, etc.Swipe up

 

Reading Text:

ActionCommand
Start/Stop readingTwo-finger tap
Start reading continuously from this point onTwo-finger swipe down
Read the entire pageTwo-finger swipe up
Read next line, word, characterRotor, swipe down
Read the previous line, word, characterRotor, swipe up
Read the selected paragraphSwipe down - two fingers
Read the selected sentenceSwipe down - two fingers
Read the selected wordRead the selected word
Read from top to current locationVO + B
Toggle speech on/offThree-finger double-tap

 

Interactive Elements Navigation:
ActionCommand
Go to the next/previous focusable item (link, button, input, etc.)Swipe right
Next linkRotor, swipe down
Next visited linkVO + Command +V
Next form or button elementVO + Command + J
Select and deselect checkboxes, radio buttons,Double-tap
Next checkbox. combo box, radio buttonRotor (Same item or form controls), swipe down
Open combo boxDouble-tap
Hear combo box options:Drag finger through the list
Activate the link or buttonDouble-tap
Next listRotor, swipe down

 

Text Editing:

ActionGestures
Select/deselect textPinch out/in
Copy the last spoken text to the clipboardThree-finger quadruple-tap
Change caseThree-finger swipe up/down*
Insert spaceTwo-finger swipe right*
BackspaceTwo-finger swipe left*

 

Table:

ActionCommand
Next tableRotor, swipe down
Move up in a columnSwipe Up
Move down in a columnSwipe Down
Move to the left in a rowSwipe Left
Move to the right in a rowSwipe Right

 

Advantages of VoiceOver:

  • The layout and gestures of VoiceOver are universal across all devices making the shift from one device to another seamless.
  • The curtain mode enables users to turn off the screen when the screen reader is being used to enable a more private user experience.
  • Users will also be able to change the speech rate if they wish to speed things up.
  • Numerous voice options with different accent options such as UK, Ireland, Australia, and South Africa.
  • Users can also determine what information has to be read by the screen reader such as punctuation, emojis, hyperlinks, and so on.

Disadvantages of VoiceOver

  • VoiceOver will not read any content from Microsoft Office for Mac.
  • Likewise, it will also not read any content from Adobe Acrobat.

Conclusion:

So as stated earlier, knowing how to use VoiceOver across all Apple devices is very crucial for an accessibility tester. The categorized tables can serve as an effective VoiceOver keyboard shortcuts guide for macOS or as a VoiceOver gestures cheat sheet for iOS. So we hope this VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide improves your accessibility testing skills. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date with such informative content.

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Listen to this blog

Apple is one of the biggest technology companies in the world with over 1.8 billion active devices as of 2022. VoiceOver is an in-built screen reader that was first introduced by Apple in 2009. It is now available on all their devices like Macs, iPhones, iPads, and so on. So as an accessibility tester, knowing to use VoiceOver for testing is mandatory. Being a leading web accessibility testing services provider, we have written this VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide that will help you in using VoiceOver for your accessibility testing. So we will be covering the various VoiceOver shortcut keys you’ll need to know when it comes to Macs and the various VoiceOver gestures when it comes to iPhones & iPads.

How to Get VoiceOver Started?

So let’s start this VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide by seeing how to start VoiceOver across all the devices. On a Mac, you can start VoiceOver by either using the shortcut keys (Command + F5) or by Settings -> General Section -> Accessibility Menu -> VoiceOver.

If you are using an iPad or iPhone that is supported by Siri, then you could also boot it up using Siri. You can also triple press the side button or the home button to start VoiceOver, or turn it on by Settings -> Accessibility -> VoiceOver.

Rotor

One unique feature in VoiceOver is the rotor, which can be described as a wheel of commands that is dependent on the context. So the user can choose what settings or navigation options that have to appear in the rotor. The rotor is highly customizable as the user can assign different navigation options such as headings, window spots, links, and so on as shown.

Rotor Functionality Menu in VoiceOver

You can define the settings you want to display in the rotor by navigating to Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Voiceover -> Utility -> Web -> Web Rotor.

When it comes to devices such as iPads and iPhones, you can also turn Rotor on by swiping two fingers on the touchscreen like how you would dial with a rotating dial pad. And you will get a similar functionality where you can define the navigation options you need and use them by performing the appropriate gestures.

Accessibility Testing Using VoiceOver

Screen readers are accessibility testing tools that are primarily assistive technologies used by people with disabilities to access the content. So knowing the basic VoiceOver keyboard shortcuts to operate it is a must. In addition to that, there are a few checkpoints that every accessibility tester should validate to ensure that the content is accessible. So in this VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide, we have categorized the VoiceOver keyboard shortcuts with reference to those checkpoints.

  • Content Navigation
  • Reading Content
  • Interactive Element Navigation
  • Table Navigation

VoiceOver Keyboard Shortcuts for macOS:

iMacs and Macbooks are the Apple devices where VoiceOver can be controlled using various keyboard shortcuts. Since devices like iPads and iPhones have a touch screen for the input, they will be using touch gestures to control VoiceOver. We will be covering those gestures later on the blog once we have seen the keyboard shortcuts.

Functional :

ActionCommand
Start or Stop VoiceOverCommand + F5
VoiceOver Activation keys (or VO keys)Control + Option (referenced as VO)
Lock (or unlock) VO keysControl + Option + ;
Open Rotor Control + Option + U
Choose speech setting options such as speaking rate, voice, pitch, etc.Control + Option + Command + Right Arrow / Left Arrow
Modify the chosen speech settingControl + Option + Command + Up Arrow / Down Arrow
Toggle screen curtain on/offControl + Option+ shift +F11

 

Content Navigation

ActionCommand
Go to the top of the page (iMacs)Control + Option + Home
Go to the top of the page (Macbooks)Control + Option + Fn + Left Arrow
Navigate to the bottom of the page (iMacs)Control + Option+ End
Navigate to the bottom of the page (Macbooks)Control + Option + Fn + Right Arrow
Go to the next headingControl + Option + Command + H
Go to the next tableControl + Option + Command + T
Go to the first item on pageControl + Option + A
Scroll (vertically or horizontally)Shift key + scroll
Go to previous (heading, table, etc.)Control + Option + Shift + Command + (H, T, etc.)

 

Reading Content:

ActionCommand
Start readingControl + Option+ A
Stop readingControl
Start reading continuously from this point onControl + Option + Down Arrow
Read the entire pageControl + Option + Up Arrow / Down Arrow
Read the next line, word, characterControl + Option + Right Arrow
Read the previous line, word, characterControl + Option + Left Arrow
Repeat the last spoken phraseControl + Option + Z
Read the selected paragraphControl + Option + P
Read the selected sentenceControl + Option + S
Read the selected wordControl + Option + W

 

Interactive Elements Navigation:

If you are unsure of what interactive elements are, they are what the name suggests. They are web elements that a user can interact with or elements that respond to inputs from the user.

ActionCommand
Go to the next/previous focusable item (link, button, input, etc.)Tab / Shift + Tab
Next linkControl + Option + Command + L
Next visited linkControl + Option + Command + V
Next form elementControl + Option+ Command + J
Next listControl + Option + Command + X
Next graphicControl + Option+ Command + G
Activate a link or form controlControl + Option Enter (or) Space Bar
Interact with (go into/out of) objects (like iframes, menus, application regions, etc.)Control + Option + Shift + Down Arrow / Up Arrow

 

Table Navigation:
ActionCommand
Next tableControl + Option + Command + T
Read column headerControl + Option + C
Read row from VO cursor location to end of rowControl + Option + R
Read column from VO cursor location to the bottom of columnControl + Option + R + C
Move up or down in a columnUp Arrow or Down Arrow
Move to the left or right in a rowLeft Arrow or Right Arrow

iOS VoiceOver gestures

Apart from the way VoiceOver is controlled on these touch-enabled devices, it does provide a very uniform experience across the Apple ecosystem. So let’s take a look at the various gestures in the same categorized view as before.

  • Functional
  • Content Navigation
  • Reading Content
  • Interactive Element Navigation
  • Text Editing
  • Table Navigation

Apart from the gestures that you will be seeing in this VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide, you will also have the option to enable typing feedback for VoiceOver to read out the words or characters that have been typed by Settings -> General -> VoiceOver -> Typing Feedback. Since VoiceOver changes the way gestures work on an iPad or iPhone, make sure to disable them in the Settings.

Functional:

ActionCommand
Start or Stop VoiceOver (When it is enabled)Triple-press home button or side button (iPhone X +)
Gesture help4-finger double-tap
Split tap quick-activationSelect and hold with one finger, tap with another
Double-press buttonTriple-tap
Next/previous app4-finger swipe right/left
Drag modeTap twice and hold
Toggle screen curtain on/offThree-finger triple-tap
Item Chooser:Two-finger triple-tap
Choose speech setting options such as speaking rate, voice, pitch, etc.VO + Command + Right/Left Arrow key
Modify the chosen speech settingVO + Command+ Up/Down Arrow Key

 

Content Navigation

ActionGesture
Go to the top of the page Two-finger swipe up
Navigate to the bottom of the pageTwo-finger double-tap one-finger tap
Go to the next headingSet Headings on Rotor and swipe down
Go to the next tableRotor, swipe down
Go to previous (heading, table, etc.)Swipe up
Go back, close a popup, or cancel the last one.Two-finger scrub
Go to the first item on the page4-finger tap on the upper/lower half of the screen
Scroll (vertically or horizontally)3-finger swipe up, down, left, or right
Go back to one link, list, table, landmark, heading, etc.Swipe up

 

Reading Text:

ActionCommand
Start/Stop readingTwo-finger tap
Start reading continuously from this point onTwo-finger swipe down
Read the entire pageTwo-finger swipe up
Read next line, word, characterRotor, swipe down
Read the previous line, word, characterRotor, swipe up
Read the selected paragraphSwipe down - two fingers
Read the selected sentenceSwipe down - two fingers
Read the selected wordRead the selected word
Read from top to current locationVO + B
Toggle speech on/offThree-finger double-tap

 

Interactive Elements Navigation:
ActionCommand
Go to the next/previous focusable item (link, button, input, etc.)Swipe right
Next linkRotor, swipe down
Next visited linkVO + Command +V
Next form or button elementVO + Command + J
Select and deselect checkboxes, radio buttons,Double-tap
Next checkbox. combo box, radio buttonRotor (Same item or form controls), swipe down
Open combo boxDouble-tap
Hear combo box options:Drag finger through the list
Activate the link or buttonDouble-tap
Next listRotor, swipe down

 

Text Editing:

ActionGestures
Select/deselect textPinch out/in
Copy the last spoken text to the clipboardThree-finger quadruple-tap
Change caseThree-finger swipe up/down*
Insert spaceTwo-finger swipe right*
BackspaceTwo-finger swipe left*

 

Table:

ActionCommand
Next tableRotor, swipe down
Move up in a columnSwipe Up
Move down in a columnSwipe Down
Move to the left in a rowSwipe Left
Move to the right in a rowSwipe Right

 

Advantages of VoiceOver:

  • The layout and gestures of VoiceOver are universal across all devices making the shift from one device to another seamless.
  • The curtain mode enables users to turn off the screen when the screen reader is being used to enable a more private user experience.
  • Users will also be able to change the speech rate if they wish to speed things up.
  • Numerous voice options with different accent options such as UK, Ireland, Australia, and South Africa.
  • Users can also determine what information has to be read by the screen reader such as punctuation, emojis, hyperlinks, and so on.

Disadvantages of VoiceOver

  • VoiceOver will not read any content from Microsoft Office for Mac.
  • Likewise, it will also not read any content from Adobe Acrobat.

Conclusion:

So as stated earlier, knowing how to use VoiceOver across all Apple devices is very crucial for an accessibility tester. The categorized tables can serve as an effective VoiceOver keyboard shortcuts guide for macOS or as a VoiceOver gestures cheat sheet for iOS. So we hope this VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide improves your accessibility testing skills. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date with such informative content.